Fermenting, pickling, salt-drying - how age-old food preservation techniques are transforming modern cooking.
We tend to take refrigeration for granted. But thank goodness it wasn’t always so. With no fridges handy, our forebears had to get creative when it came to preserving food. In order to keep fresh and hard-to-come-by food for the tougher months, they used age-old processes such as salting, sun-drying and pickling, or, in gloomier places, dryageing and smoking. And, in the industrial age, we learned to freeze food to keep it at its prime.
It is inevitable, then, that preserved food has made it into traditional dishes and onto family tables around the world: sourdough bread in Europe, kimchi in Korea, himono sun-dried fish in Japan.
While these preservation techniques were once used out of necessity, today they’ve evolved as ways to transform flavour. For instance, smoking – now often associated with American barbecue, where different combinations of wood are burned to add depth of flavour to meat – has its roots in Spanish, German and African cultures.
“The action of burning wood releases smoke that indirectly cooks the food, aromatics that flavour the food, as well as oily liquids that help flavour and preserve the products,” CRFT PIT’s executive chef Leo Kam explains. “Smoking is similar to dehydrating, and fully smoked meats could last for months.”
Each type of wood has its own characteristics, and can impart the mineral and taste profiles from the region it was harvested, according to Kam. Even the shape of the wood is accounted for, and he reckons the traditional method of using logs of hardwood achieves the best smoke and results in the best flavours.
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